Tag Archives: JPL

NASA’s Opportunity Rover Just Set the Off-World Driving Distance Record

NASA’s Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. As of Sunday (July 26), the Opportunity rover had driven a total distance of 25 miles (40 kilometers).

Opportunity took the top spot in total off-world distance traveled by surpassing Russia’s Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, which traveled a total distance of 39 kilometers across the surface of the moon between January and May of 1973.

The Russian rover helped to bring about a golden age of space exploration in the 70s. As a sign of respect, the Opportunity rover’s operators decided to commemorate the Russian rover by naming one of the first craters they encountered after it.

Tracing the path that Opportunity has taken since it landed on Mars in 2004. On the left rim of the large Endeavor Crater, you can see the Lunokhod 2 crater. Click to enlarge (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

The craziest part of this record is that the Opportunity rover was only expected to travel a short distance when it was first sent to Mars in 2004. Here’s John Callas, who manages the Mars Exploration Project at NASA’s Jet-Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California:

“This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

The Opportunity rover is collecting data on Mars as part of a long-term plan for a manned mission to the planet around the year 2030.

The infographic below compares the distances driven by different rovers throughout the years. Click to enlarge (courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech):

Read the original story from NASA here.

Advertisements

Direct Evidence That the Universe Expanded 100 Trillion TRILLION Times in A Split-Second

Astronomers announced a HUGE discovery yesterday. They claim to have found the first direct evidence to support the Big Bang and the Inflationary Theory of the universe.

For those who aren’t totally familiar with the theory, it basically states that 13.8 billion years ago all the matter in the universe existed in an extremely dense ball of matter (known as the singularity) about the size of a pinhead.

Then this singularity, no longer able to hold itself together, blew apart, expanding by 100 trillion trillion times (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times) in less than the blink of an eye.

Here’s a nice graphic illustrating inflationary theory (the top numbers are the time after the Big Bang, the bottom numbers the average temperature of the universe)

Click to enlarge

Scientists theorized that this explosion was so massive and violent that it ripped apart space itself. Einstein theorized that if this were the case, we would be able to observe gravitational waves (which squeeze and stretch space) that were left over from the Big Bang.

So how did the scientists know they had observed gravitational waves? Well, these waves produce a very distinct “swirly” pattern (like the ones in the image below) in polarized light, known as “B-mode” polarization. Polarization is when light waves are distorted from their original shape.

B-mode polarization fractions of a second after the Big Bang (Image: BICEP2 Project)
Types of light polarization

There have been a number of discoveries in the past which pointed indirectly to the Big Bang and expansion, such as the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, but scientists consider this discovery the first direct evidence supporting the inflationary theory.

Read the full story from Space Industry News here.